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Smart Inking: Turning to the Dark Side

Effective color management, proper profiles and less light ink makes a difference.



Dean Derhak, an SAi product director with 19 years in RIP software, management, marketing, sales and engineering technologies, often visits signshops and large-format print businesses to learn how they increase their profits. This month, Dean explains how GCR settings in media-profiling software can cut your ink costs. Reach Dean at [email protected]

In ST’s October issue, under a “Smart Inking” headline, I provided some tips on how to increase digital-print profits through effective color management. Here, my smart-inking advice continues, because exploring different ways to produce grey or black tones can also reduce ink costs.
Most default-ICC media profiles liberally use CMY inks to print grey, black and shadows, but this practice consumes up to two-thirds more ink than is necessary. If your RIP software has an ICC profile-making module, you can control this ink usage.
Although the black generation process depends on the image type and media — for example, backlit signage requires significant ink – selecting a Gray Component Replacement (GCR) curve that replaces CMY ink with black ink will noticeably reduce your ink costs, with little impact on print quality, especially in dark areas. You’ll find this GCR curve setting in the ICC profile-making module of your RIP software, or in your stand-alone ICC profile-making software.
This option is worth investigating because it allows you to achieve good colors with less ink, and, even with some loss in detail, it can deliver richer blacks.
ICC profile making engines have a GCR setting called “Max K,” or “GCRMax,” that will reduce CMY ink for black and replace it with K ink for blacks. Selecting this setting may save another 20% of your per-job ink use. The main disadvantage of using this GCR method is close-up viewing may reveal small, black-ink dots in highlight and mid-tone areas. Sometimes called a “peppering effect,” this can only be seen when viewing close-up. However, for images to be viewed at a distance of more than 6 ft., a GCR setting of “Max K” will produce rich and neutral blacks.
If K ink in your ICC media profile’s GCR curve is over-used, darker colors could be blown out, which may reduce shadow detail. Choosing your GCR level settings depends on the media, so be prepared to experiment. Even so, a replacement curve of CMY with K is worth considering — it can dramatically reduce ink costs and keep your prints looking dark and with contrast.
If you don’t have the ICC, media-profiling module or stand-alone software that gives you this GCR control, your potential ink-cost savings may be worth the investment.
Also, be aware of the intended viewing distance because it indicates what you can get away with, while still keeping your customer happy.

Dean Derhak is a product director at SAi with 19 years’ experience in RIP software technologies gained across roles in product management, marketing, sales, engineering, and technical support. Dean can be reached at: [email protected]



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